Naming the Truth; the LCWR Conference

The LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) held their annual gathering this week. They have been under investigation by the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) for over three years now, and the issue has come to a head, in that from now on they are being ordered to accept the jurisdiction of Archbishop Sartain over important decisions about how they conduct their business. How they respond to this will have major implications for the future of women religious worldwide.

Dan Stockton of the National Catholic Reporter has reported extensively on the conference, and his accounts make both fascinating and depressing reading. Some very straight and courageous talking was done this past week. Two thing in particular struck me.
1. The dispute between the LCWR and the CDF has to do with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The sisters have worked hard over the past fifty years to implement the decisions of the Council; the CDF have rejected them, and made no change in the way they operate. This shows itself mostly in their understanding of authority and decision-making. In line with the Vatican Council, the sisters have developed a system of decision-making that involves reflection, prayer, consultation and agreement. The CDF still operates out of the old top-down style, where the person in authority decides and everyone else obeys. How this clash is resolved will have repercussion right across the Church.
2. The accusations made by the CDF against the sisters are vague and lacking in substance. Basically they say that the sisters devote more energy to issues around justice and the poor than they do around abortion and same-sex marriage. One of the speakers at the conference highlighted the anomaly of this, and said it would be much better and more honest if Cardinal Meuller of the CDF came out with the real reason for this investigation — that he considers that these sisters, since they are women, should get back behind the desk in their classrooms and do what they are told — leaving all decisions to the men.

What I find strange and disappointing is the silence of Pope Francis. Reading the talks given by the sisters constantly brings to mind the sentiments of Evangelii Gaudius, Pope Francis’ document of last Autumn. They are clearly far more in tune with him than is the CDF, and yet he does nothing to reign in the bullying of Meuller.

The other thing I find disappointing is the total lack of reporting of this conference by the Irish media, and in particular the so-called paper of record. Right now they are so totally absorbed in the resignation (or not) of Sean Brady — and that is hardly an event that will have any long-term consequences for the Church one way or the other. He has been a ‘busted flush’ now for some years, so whether he goes now or in a few months time is of little or no import.
But what is happening in the US has enormous implications. I hope and pray that the sisters will stand firm.